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Articles > Student Life March, 12, 2020

Student Groceries: One Apple to Save the Turtles

Alex Bestwick
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It’s not hard to overspend when it comes to buying groceries as a student, but I think I’ve got a few good tips which you can use to save some money during those weekly shops. You might just help the environment while you’re at it, too!

The Buying:

Halfway through my first year of university, when I was already resigned to throwing away most of my precious student loan on weekly shops, I happened to head to Morrison’s at just the right time one week. On that one fateful night, I stepped into the store to find a sea of yellow stickers. Upon closer inspection I saw that they were all mark-downs: fruit and vegetables approaching their best-before-date being sold at reduced prices. And I can’t lie, picking up a bag of onions which should have cost £1 for 5p was pretty thrilling. And so, I filled my trolley up with all sorts of fancy (at least in student terms) food. Had I ever wanted to make my own soup before? No. But for 5p, sure, I’d give it a go.

I headed to the checkout with a full trolley, smug as hell when my grand total came to just under a couple of quid. Honestly, I’m confident that this is still my most impressive achievement as a student. I dragged my haul home and showed everything off to my astonished flatmates like a beauty vlogger. Yes, yes, these mushrooms really were 8p! I felt like a financially unstable king.

The Prepping:

Immediately though, one big problem appeared: where exactly was I supposed to store it all? Student accommodation isn’t exactly known for being generous with the storage space. But I don’t think that it’s news to say that best-before-dates are more like guidelines; I sorted through my shop, selected what would keep longest, and then cooked the rest into a huge casserole. And I mean huge.

The Winning Solution:

Now, obviously I didn’t eat the whole casserole in one sitting. That brings me to my next tip: bulk cook and make use of any freezer space. Coming home after a full day of lectures knowing all you need to do is throw something in the microwave to have a full, steaming meal within minutes is a completely unrivalled feeling.

But What About The Environment..?

After freezing everything, the only real remaining problem was waste. So much of the food I was buying came in single-use plastic packaging, and as the bins filled up, the smugness at my savings soured into guilt. I felt at personal fault for the lives of more than a few turtles. But environmentally friendly, waste-free food seemed so expensive; did I have to choose between saving money or saving the planet?

Usually, this would be the part where I tell you that buying from waste-free shops is actually cheaper and more convenient than you’d think (Maybe it is in certain parts of the country). But for me that hasn’t been the case. Instead, when I consistently did my shopping later, snatching up those before-closing bargains, I realised I was saving rather a lot of money. Obviously, there’s no such thing as saving too much money, but all that plastic weighed on my conscience.

I eventually realised that the money I saved on all the price reductions could be put to better use. So, I kept my eyes out for plastic-free alternatives. Most supermarkets do them: they sell individual apples and potatoes and carrots, but it’s just cheaper (and more convenient) to buy a whole bag. But since I was only feeding myself, did I really need a whole bag of apples every week? I had to race to get through them before they went off, at which point they, along with the plastic bag, went in the bin. While it felt like the scam of the century to pay more for three apples than I would a pack of ten, I also felt like the king of being environmentally conscious, so that’s exactly what I did. You’re welcome, turtles.

Ultimately:

Saving money as a student is great. After all, whatever you’re spending on bread and vegetables each week could be spent on drinks that night, or cheesy chips after. But the consequence always seems to be waste, and the steal of 5p potatoes can make you overlook the heaps and heaps of plastic. Thankfully, there are ways to find a balance, minimise your single-use plastic consumption while maximising those bargains.

Now then, time to head to the shops…

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